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Visit San Antonio: Legislative Affairs, August 2020

Visit San Antonio continues to follow developments related to funding and regulatory actions of the federal, state and local governments to combat the spread of COVID-19.  The team has also been monitoring the Texas Legislature. The Interim Session has slowed down with House and Senate committees determining how to conduct business during the pandemic.  The City of San Antonio is beginning to finalize its Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, so Government Relations will monitor these actions and provide updates prior to the final budget adoption in late September.

Federal

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have been on their August recess, but returned to Washington, D.C., on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22, respectively, to hold hearings and take other actions related to funding and operations of the U.S. Postal Service.

Prior to going on August recess, the House and Senate each passed versions of coronavirus relief legislation providing different funding levels and assistance programs. However, negotiations with both chambers and the Trump Administration continue to be stalled. Many are predicting that some type of federal aid to relieve the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 will happen in September.

Visit San Antonio continues to focus on advocating for the addition of travel-related provisions, including expanding eligibility of the Paycheck Protection Program to 501c(6) groups and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) of all sizes, and the extension of the loan submission deadline. Also, the focus is on securing additional funds for Economic Development Administration Grants for DMOs and a temporary travel tax credit. 

As we continue to monitor federal activity in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), we are asking you for your assistance to reach out to your members of Congress. We are providing a link from USTA to show your support for another COVID-19 relief package, specifically to extend and expand the Paycheck Protection Program. VSA urges you to click on the link below and contact your member of Congress and show your support for the travel and tourism industry.  The online correspondence takes only a few minutes to complete and will demonstrate how important the need is for continued federal assistance.

Contact your member of Congress: Extend and Expand PPP

State

During August, much of the state’s COVID-19 focus has been on education start dates and operational issues as children and educators begin the new school year.  Governor Greg Abbott did renew the statewide emergency declaration.  This renewed declaration provides for the state’s continued eligibility to draw down federal funds and other resources.

Since March, Governor Greg Abbott has issued 22 Executive Orders and three amendments to those orders. Abbott’s Executive Orders remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded or superseded by the governor.  Information concerning the Governor’s COVID-19 Executive Orders and other state response information can be found at the following websites:

On Aug. 4, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission met in Austin for a regularly scheduled meeting with the goal of reviewing and approving rules for how it will review significant state agencies during a pandemic.  There are 21 state agencies up for review during the current 2019-2021 cycle, the Governor’s Economic Development and Tourism Office is included in this review cycle.  Despite not approving rules for reviewing in-person or virtual hearing processes, the Sunset Commission voted to delay its review of the Governor’s Economic Development & Tourism Office from this cycle and place its review in the 2022-2023 Sunset cycle.  However, even with this action, the Legislature still retains the authority to act on this agency during the coming 87th Regular Legislative Session. There are no additional meeting dates scheduled for the Sunset Committee.

Neither the Texas Senate nor the House of Representatives have conducted any hearings in August.  The Texas Senate, currently, has a hearing for the Committee on Health and Human Services scheduled for Sept. 9 at 9 a.m. in the Senate Chamber 2E.8.

As previously reported, Texas Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Bonnen, has been working with committee leadership and members of the Texas House of Representatives to addresses operational issues presented by the pandemic and its effects on the normal course of business for the Texas House of Representatives. Under House Rules and Chapter 301, committees are not authorized:

  • to use virtual meetings or virtual hearings to conduct business in lieu of holding in-person meetings open to the public at the Capitol or an approved location outside of Austin; or

  • to intentionally meet, via videoconference, telephone conference or in person in numbers of less than a quorum to conduct committee business, including receiving briefings from agency officials at which committee members may ask questions.

As we move towards the coming 87th Regular State Legislative Session, Visit San Antonio will be monitoring both the Interim and Regular Session operational procedures and issues.  As key information becomes available, we will provide you with updates.

TABC New Emergency Rule

On Aug. 25, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) adopted on an “emergency”-basis amended Rule 33.5, Food and Beverage Certificates, in response to COVID-19.  As provided by the Texas Government Code Chapter 2001, Section 2001.034, TABC may adopt an emergency rule without prior notice or hearing upon finding that imminent peril to the public health, safety or welfare requires adoption on fewer than 30 days’ notice.  Emergency rules adopted under Government Code Section 2001.034 may be effective for not longer than 120 days and may be renewed for not longer than 60 days.  The new rule is effective immediately. 

The emergency rule eliminates rules requiring businesses operating as restaurants to have a commercial grade kitchen, while also allowing food to be brought in from off-site and sold.  Essentially, bars could more easily partner with food trucks while counting those sales toward the 51 percent rule when applying for a food and beverage certificate.  A copy of the emergency rule can be found here

Local

Bexar County

County Judge Nelson Wolff recently issued Executive Order NW-14, which remains in effect through Sept. 16.  NW-14 is nearly identical to the previously issued NW-13.  NW-14 adds the following:

  • Bexar County parks will be closed for the Labor Day Weekend (Sept. 4-7).

  • Cancellation of the County Foreclosure Sale on Sept. 1 (rescheduled for Oct. 6).

City of San Antonio

On Aug. 19, Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued Addendum #7 to the current Emergency Health Declaration #8.  This action essentially adopted Wolff’s Executive Order NW-14 and related to the Governor’s Executive Orders still in effect. On Aug. 24, the City of San Antonio issued a Press Release announcing city parks will be closed for the Labor Day weekend.  Specifically, all City parks will be closed to the public effective Sept. 4 at 11:59 p.m. until Sept. 8 at 5 a.m. 

Finally, the City of San Antonio is in the process of developing and finalizing the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget.  On Aug. 26 at 9 a.m., City Council will receive a staff briefing on the following items:

  • Hotel Occupancy Tax
  • Convention & Sports Facilities
  • Arts & Culture
  • Airport

As we learn more about these portions of San Antonio’s budget, we will provide additional updates.